Thanks to steady mileage program devaluations across most airlines, frequent fliers like me need to fly more using higher tier fares to earn airline miles and elite status. For us, this has also amplified the need to accrue American AAdvantage miles without flying.
Why? We’ve been having trouble securing reduced mileage awards (or MileSAAver awards) on the routes we fly. This means booking AAnytime mileage awards which require significantly more miles, which is what I did on recent American Airlines flights to Hong Kong.
If you want to earn more American Airlines miles in 2020, the game is all about credit cards and partner programs.
Here’s what you need to know.
Earn Miles with an AAdvantage Credit Card
There is no doubt that credit cards are now the best, and often only, way to earn serious miles with any eligible airline. We actually carry four major credit cards (one is for business) because their benefits far outweigh their annual fees.
If you’re committed to earning serious American AAdvantage miles, then you should think about getting an AAdvantage credit card (and using it responsibly).
Citi / AAdvantage
Credit card offers change all the time, but Citi / AAdvantage credit cards currently include:
- Citi / AAdvantage Executive Card
- Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select Card
- Citi / AAdvantage Gold Card
- AAdvantage MileUp Card
- CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Card
- CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Select Card
We use the Citi / Advantage Executive card primarily for the Admirals Club access that it provides. The annual fee on this card is less than I could buy Admirals Club access for even with AAdvantage Executive Platinum status.
American AAdvantage Barclays credit cards currently include:
- Aviator Silver MasterCard
- Aviator Red MasterCard
- Aviator Blue MasterCard
- Aviator MasterCard
- Aviator Business MasterCard
We use the Aviator Silver MasterCard because it’s the only credit card where you can earn Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) in addition to Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs). Currently, users earn 3000 EQDs after spending $50,000. Users earn 5,000 EQMs after spending $20,000 on purchases and another 5,000 EQMs after spending an additional $20,000 on purchases.
The points earned on daily purchases add up in your favor, but what makes these cards worthwhile are the introductory bonuses. You can earn as much as 70,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after you make qualifying purchases.
Other Credit Cards
Keep in mind that you don’t have to stick to Citi or Barclays. While these credit cards below don’t help you earn AAdvantage miles, they accrue points that can be redeemed for flights on American Airlines. You can also transfer points to oneworld partner airlines to redeem through their programs on American Airlines flights.
The credit cards below are popular with frequent fliers.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Chase Ink Business
- American Express Platinum Card
- Citi Prestige
We use Chase Sapphire Reserve after we’ve maxed out benefits on the Barclays Aviator Silver Mastercard. I like the flexibility that Chase Ultimate Rewards points offer. We most often use these points as cash on routes where mileage tickets aren’t available or don’t make sense. The upshot is that using points to book flights on American Airlines and partner oneworld flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards also earn AAdvantage miles (always check the fare class to make sure you’re earning miles).
My main business credit card is American Express Platinum Card which I love for Centurion Lounge access and its myriad of other benefits. I also use American Express Membership Rewards as cash on routes where I can’t secure a mileage ticket.
Offers and bonuses for general credit cards also change frequently so do your research at the time of application.
Earn Miles with Hotel Nights
Many major hotel brands partner with American Airlines to share points. The current list of participants includes (but there are more):
- InterContinental Hotels
- Best Western Hotels and Resorts
- Hyatt Hotels and Resorts (including Park Hyatt Aviara Resort)
- Marriott Bonvoy
- Choice Hotels
- Wyndham Hotels and Resorts
- Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts (including Island Shangri-La)
- Millennium Hotels and Resorts
When you book with these hotels, you can choose to earn American AAdvantage miles, usually in addition to your hotel points, by providing your AAdvantage number at check-in or by linking your AAdvantage number to your hotel rewards program.
Depending on the hotel program, you can earn a 1-to-1 point accrual (or 2-to-1 in some cases). Some hotel brands only offer a set number of points per stay.
Keep in mind that you only earn points when you book directly with the hotels. You won’t make anything from Expedia or another price aggregator unless you book the hotel on one of your rewards credit cards. Be sure to check terms and conditions with the hotel or rewards program prior to your stay.
Do you have a bank of hotel points all stored up with nowhere to go? You can convert hotel points from participating partners into miles. The current conversion rates include:
- 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points = 10,000 AAdvantage miles
- 10,000 Hilton Honors points = 1,500 AAdvantage miles
- 5,000 Wolrd of Hyatt points = 2,000 Advantage miles
The points transfer can be a great way to top up your American AAdvantage miles and push you over the edge into a rewards ticket without spending any new money.
Earn Miles with Rental Cars
If you rent cars, make your money work better for you. Provide your AAdvantage card at time of booking to earn miles with:
The best rewards tend to be with preferred partners. At present, you get more points for your miles with Avis, Budget, and Payless.
Earn Miles with Charity
Max out your charitable tax deductions. Or maybe you give a little because it’s a great thing to do for your community. If you donate to American Airlines’ causes, then you can earn bonus miles.
At present, American offers you 10 miles for ever dollar donated to Stand Up To Cancer.
You won’t earn enough for a vacation this way, but it’s an excellent way to buy some miles while also ensuring the purchase goes to a worthy cause.
Earn Miles with AAdvantage eShopping
Do you value American Airlines miles and shop online? Don’t spend another dollar without visiting AAdvantage eShopping first.
AAdvantage eShopping is AA’s shopping connection. It’s the digital version of the catalog in your seatback pocket but bigger and much, much better.
The online catalog includes 950 of your favorite stores and brands. These are stores that you find in your local shopping mall, big box stores, and online-only brands like One Kings Lane.
You can shop where and when you want, and you always earn miles. You even earn bonus miles through promotions offered by AA. And if you go shopping with your AAdvantage or rewards credit card, you receive even more. AA also throws in coupons and discount codes that change seasonally.
A handful of the stores you can buy from include:
- Best Buy
- The Home Depot
- Barnes and Noble
- Bed Bath and Beyond
- Neiman Marcus
The easiest thing to do is add the AAdvantage eShopping button to your browser. I have it on Chrome and when I land on an eligible site, a notification pops up to alert me that my purchase will qualify.
Press the button and you’ll earn miles. Otherwise, you can search for items in the eShopping catalog and buy them that way.
AAdvantage eShopping is maybe the easiest way to earn points using money you were going to spend anyway and it’s only available to AAdvantage members.
Earn Miles with AAdvantage Dining
If you thought AAdvantage eShopping was good, wait until you hear about AAdvantage Dining.
This program uses the same premise as AAdvantage eShopping. You earn points by spending money you’d normally spend on meals out.
However, the execution is different.
You need to sign up for an AAdvantage Dining account and link your credit and debit cards to it. The program automatically knows when you spend money at one of the listed establishments and reward you 1 mile for every dollar. New diners earn a sign-up bonus.
If you go out to a restaurant on the list more than 12 times, you earn more miles at 5 miles per $1 spent.
You also get extra cash if you subscribe to emails. Signing up for the newsletter is a good idea because you’ll learn about current bonus offers.
As always, you earn more points when you link your rewards card to the account.
Tip: Be sure to update credit card numbers if yours ever become lost or stolen. I forgot to do this once and lost out on some miles.
Earn Miles with BankDirect
Switching checking accounts is about the least amount of fun a person can have. But if you want to earn miles, then it could be a good option.
BankDirect offers AAdvantage customers the chance to earn extra points when you sign up for a new account. The new account offers tend to be the best, but they aren’t recurring. So, you won’t pull in a considerable amount after sign-up.
After enrolling, you get 100 monthly miles for every $1,000 in your daily balance. So, if you keep 5,000 in your checking account, you earn 500 miles a month for doing nothing.
There are other financial options unrelated to BankDirect that you may find appealing. However, these tend to be one-off events rather than monthly learning opportunities.
American HomeMiles allows you to buy and sell a home – and earn miles while doing so. You can earn tens of thousands of miles just for the transaction.
If you buy or sell a $250,000 home, you earn 50,000 AAdvantage miles. If you get a mortgage and use the other services offered, you receive even more.
Miles for Opinions
Miles for Opinions is an old-school form of point accrual. You earn points for participating in market research opportunities available exclusively to AA customers.
It takes a lot of time to collect any miles here, but it can be helpful if you are on the cusp of a reward flight and you only need a few more miles.
If you love surveys, you can also sign up for e-Rewards. It’s the same premise but a different program and is available to everyone, not just AAdvantage members.
Buy or Transfer Miles through American Airlines
Finally, you can buy miles.
Buying miles rarely makes sense unless you are 1,000 miles away from a free business class flight to Europe. They are expensive, and you get nothing but the miles.
The people who buy miles are usually those who want to drop several thousand dollars on miles in exchange for business class redemptions. In these cases, it can be a cost-savings. But most of us aren’t trying to fly first class to Singapore next month.
If you are going to buy miles, do so during a promotion. American Airlines will reward you with bonus miles for every several thousand you spend. I have purchased miles when short of an award ticket and they do credit right away, in my experience.
Speaking of buying and transferring miles, I like to aggregate my points and mileage accounts on Points.com so that I can log in and see exactly where I stand. Through Points.com you can also buy points and transfer points between programs. It’s free, too!
Are You Making the Most of Your AAdvantage Account?
There are so many good ways to earn airline miles that you seldom need to get on a plane. You can earn from shopping, dining, banking, and more and that doesn’t even take into consideration the sign-up bonuses for AAdvantage credit cards.
You should also remember miles earned using these methods (other than AAdvantage credit cards that offer EQMs or EQDs after reaching a certain spend level) don’t count toward elite status.
If you’re a short distance away from leveling up, you may need to hop on a plane, which is why I’m headed to New York City next month.
*Top photo is courtesy of American Airlines